Heartbeat Detector

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Heartbeat Detector
Original French-language poster
Directed by Nicolas Klotz
Produced by Sophie Dulac
Written by François Emmanuel
Elisabeth Perceval
Starring Mathieu Amalric
Michael Lonsdale
Edith Scob
Music by Syd Matters
Cinematography Josée Deshaies
Edited by Rose-Marie Lausson
Distributed by Sophie Dulac Distribution
Release date
  • 12 September 2007 (2007-09-12)
Running time
143 minutes
Country France
Language French

Heartbeat Detector (French: La Question humaine) is a 2007 French film directed by Nicolas Klotz and starring Mathieu Amalric. The film is based on the 2000 novel by François Emmanuel.


The film centers on Kessler, a psychologist in the human resources department of the French branch of a long-established German firm. The firm has recently dismissed 50% of its workforce on criteria devised by Kessler. Rose, the vice-president of the company, requests Kessler to look into whether Jüst, the CEO is fit to do his job. The CEO discovers Kessler is investigating him and tells him that Rose, whose previous name was Kraus, has a Nazi past.

Kessler then discovers that Jüst's father headed a Nazi extermination group on the Eastern Front during World War II. Jews placed in the back of a closed truck were killed with the truck's exhaust gas. A device called a 'heartbeat detector' was then applied to discover any who had survived. Tormented by this memory Jüst attempts suicide.

The action then shifts from the company's politics to the Holocaust. An analogy is drawn between the desubjectivized corporate language used in downsizing and that used in the Nazi chain of command.



The film has been considered in Film Comment as "a response to and comment on the present—the era of neoliberal capitalism, industrial downsizing, and the displaced and disaffected who do, or don’t, manage to adjust."[1] Other scholars pointed out how the film suggests a provocative parallel between neoliberal capitalism and the technical ideology that underpinned the Holocaust.[2]


There are two consecutive performances that the main character watches, one by a flamenco singer, Miguel Poveda, the other by a Portuguese group.

Awards and nominations[edit]


External links[edit]


  1. ^ "The Body Politic: Heartbeat Detector - Film Comment". Retrieved 2015-09-25. 
  2. ^ SAXTON, LIBBY (2010-01-01). "Horror by Analogy: Paradigmatic Aesthetics in Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval's "La question humaine"". Yale French Studies (118/119): 209–224. JSTOR 41337088.